What is the root word in "homeschooling"? HOME, of course! Several years ago we were blessed to move into a community chock full of homeschooling opportunities, which was vastly different from the previous place we had lived. I was so starved for some homeschooling connections that I had it in my head to get involved in absolutely everything. Fortunately for me, the Lord had other plans, and I got pregnant which pretty much kept the activities down to a minimum for that year. After we played catch up from the pregancy year we began to get a feel for the things in which we wanted to participate. We tried to keep things reasonable, a weekly co-op and a few once-a-month activites, but it can get out of hand. Add in sports, library programs, misc. clubs, play days, parties...before you know it you are NEVER at home!
Do you ever feel like your family is living out of your minivan? Last year I wanted to join this really great co-op I had heard about that had all kinds of creative classes. I applied and was accepted; the only problem being that it would be a 45 minute drive every week. I pondered the fact that I don't enjoy driving, the cost, and that I had a 1-year-old that would have to function without a nap on those days and eventually decided that no matter how bad I wanted it, it just wouldn't be a good thing.
I've already blogged about co-ops, should you or shouldn't you join one--but this isn't about that. How can you make the most of your homeschooling day? Be at home.
Despite the fact that we disliked where we lived prior to moving here, those four years were some of our best years of learning because we were home so much. Not many things were pushed to the back burner for lack of time and no rushing out the door with intentions of finishing things later.
Now I am not advocating seclusion--on the contrary, that can make you a little crazy. So here is one of my homeschool mantras: KEEP IT CLOSE TO HOME. I'll go ahead and say for those of you who live out in the boonies, this won't apply. But for the rest of you...be choosy about your activities. Don't just do activities to be doing something. And if you are wanting to participate in things in order to make friends, the best place to do that is close to home. If the friends you make all live far away, chances are you will only see them on days you are meeting for activites. If you are doing things close to home, you will still be able to get school work accomplished before or after activities, you will still be able to cook dinner, let your kids have their naps, all the things that suffer when we choose to be involved in activities that take us out of our "neighborhoods".
Because our family is already far too extended with high school sports, my goal is to keep all other activities close to home. Co-ops, clubs, whatever...keep it on the "east side". What if there aren't any activities on your side of town? That's a good questions. All it takes is a couple of like-minded families and before you know it you have a group gathered for whatever it is you want to do. What do you want to do? Book Club, Chess Club, Scouting, Music Lessons, Nature Walks...other people either are doing it or want to do it (unless you live in the boonies, of course), you just have to reach out. Is that not in your personality pool--reaching out? Me neither! But when the choices were hauling my kids all over kingdom come or getting outside of my comfort zone, I decided to try to be a grown up. I can't say that for all my stepping outside my comfort zone that it has gotten any easier, but I am glad for myself and my kids. Not everything you try will work, and that's okay.
To summarize the benefits of keeping close to home:
1-- More time at home to get things accomplished
2-- Greater likelihood of keeping a normal schedule for you and your children
3-- Easier to meet friends on an impromptu basis
4-- Less money spent on gas and food
5-- More sanity!
Okay, so maybe you've tried and just can't find activities in your own backyard. Then my suggestion is that you try to cram everything into a day. Choose a day to be away from home and try to schedule all of you activites for that day. Music, ballet, clubs...see what you can find to do all in one day. If it's in the middle of the week, great, an opportunity to break up the monotony. If it's at the end of the week, it's like celebrating all your hard work for the week. It will take organization and planning, but what doesn't?
I am speaking from my own experiences, of course. If your family thrives on being on the road all week and still manages to get schoolwork, housework and everything else done, then this need not apply. But if you find yourself overwhelmed week by week, evaluate your activity choices. Maybe a few changes to bring things closer to home will bring your household life closer to what you want it to be.